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No-driver cars: new theft threat

2012-06-08 13:35

SELF-DRIVE, SELF-STEAL: The concept of autonomous cars (self-drivers) opens a whole can of worms involving remote-controlled car-theft.

Detroit, Michigan - Imagine this car-theft scenario in the not-so-distant future... given that new technologies have come fully into play and the garage door isn't locked.

A car thief uses an iPad to hack into the security system of a self-driving car parked in a garage in a distant city. He sends the GPS co-ordinates of a chop shop to the car's satnav and the car "steals" itself by calculating the route and heading solo for dismantlement.


This threat, according to the Detroit News, is the basis for a new field of automotive technology for identity verification at Covisint, a subsidiary of Detroit-based Compuware Corporation. It and other companies met in June 2012 at a Telematics Detroit conference in the US to discuss issues such as vehicle security and the intersection of telecommunications and information technology.

David Miller, Covisint's chief security officer, told the DetNews: "It's really important to make sure the guy unlocking the car is the owner."

Covisint is creating security systems that prevent anybody other than a car's owner or allowed driver getting into and driving off in a vehicle. The company is developing a web portal to sell to suppliers and automakers that drivers can use to verify their identity.

Jim Hall, MD of 2953 Analytics in Birmingham, Alabama, added: "Autonomous vehicles are going to raise issues we haven't thought about. How do you prevent someone from commandeering cars and moving them where they want to?"

If the idea of a car theft itself sounds far-fetched, consider that some systems such as General Motors' OnStar allow drivers to use a smart phone to unlock and start their car remotely.

The keyless entry systems used by a number of automakers has safeguards against theft by requiring a key fob to be in the car to unlock the steering column. A thief may be able to enter and even start a car using a smart phone but no key fob, no go.

"It's not possible to drive it away," Hall asserted.

"There are a lot bigger identity theft problems in other industries than there are in connected cars," Miller added, "but this is the time to build in protocols."

He's absolutely right!

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